Every once in a while it feels like our life is filled with VERY BIG things, and nothing small at all.
expect small problems all the time. This world is not set up for people
who are outside the norm, and we have disability, precociousness, and
we are all way above the average height, just to name a few ways we're
different. So I expect that we will have trouble finding a parking place
that doesn't endanger anyone, and need to load a wheelchair in and out
of a car, adding ten minutes to any "quick trip." I expect that I will
need to explain a grown-up concept to my always-curious daughter who
understands just enough of something so as to require more information. I
assume I will need to scope out a restaurant before we commit to going
in., and if we're at home I might need to spend 8 minutes adjusting the
chair my son sits in to eat. It seems I regularly need to spend some
time in conversation with my daughter covering the topics of equity,
fairness, ability, and picking up after yourself. Little things.
But right now, it's all so big. So here's one big thing:
need to buy a new car. Not "I want to", or we are "thinking about it", I
must buy a new car because my always reliable Toyota Sienna minivan had
"sudden unintended acceleration" (SUA) a few weeks ago. While I was able to keep the
car under control, and did not injure anyone, I can't ever trust that
the car will be safe enough for me to carry my babies in it again. What
if we had been on Echo Pass? or on the tiny switchback-turny road, Old Priest's Grade? I needed a full left turn lane, about five car lengths,
to realize what was happening, get it into neutral** and apply the brakes.
Maybe I stopped in four car lengths, but regardless, on a mountain pass
you just don't get four car lengths to get your car under control. And
what if I hadn't been driving? Jake's aide already told me she wouldn't
have known to put it into neutral. If I had not gained control I would
have hit the center divide and a light post on the opposite side of the
intersection, or God forbid another family in a car.
cannot duplicate the problem with my car, and they have let me know
several times that it was most likely "floor mat entrapment"(meaning
that my floormat got caught under the pedal and kept the accelerator
depressed). Lord knows I would be thrilled if that had been the problem,
because then I would just take out the damn floor mats and continue driving
the car that we just spent $4000 to repair (because we, very responsibly, had decided to drive the car for 4-5
more years since we own it, and it still has a perfectly good engine).
But I know it was not the floor mats. I've had that happen to me in
another car, and the feeling in the Sienna, when it began to accelerate
without me pushing down in the pedal...this was a completely different
feeling, a terrifying, out-of-control feeling. And now that I know what
it feels like, I can recall, very specifically it happening two other
times. (All three times I was on a flat road, moving from right to left,
accelerating by 10-15 miles per hour, with my turn signal on, and the
temperature outside was in the mid-seventies. Does that help your
engineers Toyota?) One of those other times I called my husband right
after it happened, and told him what I thought had occurred. When I was on
the freeway, accelerating a little bit more than I wanted to, it was
less noticable than on a city street. It calmed down and went about driving normally. Those
other times I let it go and called it a fluke.
But here's the
thing, after I got the car to stop safely, this last time, I tried to
restart the car. In my hyper-alert state of mind, I decided to
get the car out of traffic so I would not cause any accidents. Of course
that is a crazy idea to drive the car right away, but that's what I was
thinking I should do. So I restarted it. Twice. And both times, without
my foot on the accelerator, the engine red-lined to about 7000 rpm.
Both. Times. That means that the car was still in an "unintended
acceleration" state, just not in drive. That's when I got out of the
car, took the keys out, and stood outside of what once had been the car I
used to shuttle my children, haul groceries, and road trip with
every weekend. My car went from being a reliable part of the family to
being a 2 ton pile of angry metal, bent on self-destruction, and happy
to take me on a ride with it.
And so, I will not go
into all of the detail of how poorly Toyota has communicated with us,
how not-helpful they were, how I had to actually pay for the rental car I
used while my car sat around their lot waiting for a Toyota exec to
come out and look at the "customer-stated issue" Since they couldn't
duplicate the problem in all of the 11 miles they drove the car, they
have declared my car as having "no issues." Which is fine for them, but
completely not fine for me, or my family.
So I'm not
just thinking about buying a car, I need to get a different car, right
now because we still have all of those things to do that we always need
to do, like get to school, and to the store, and to the doctor's
office.. And now I need to figure out all of the things we need to
consider in a new car, and buy one on a compressed time schedule. We
chose that Toyota on purpose, because it fit Jake's wheelchair
across the back, has all wheel drive, has a low threshold to get in,
enough leg room for our leggy family, room for seven passengers, a roof
rack, and sliding side doors that slid at the press of a button.
how many other cars have those features? None. No other car in the US
market has those features. Toyota makes that car. It's the Sienna, and
had they handled the situation differently, I might feel like they cared
about my family. If they said, "Let us take that car right now for full
blue-book, here is a new one with zero-percent financing, and we have
no known issues at all with the new Siennas." You know, I probably
would have considered it as my first choice. I had enough confidence in that company that I would have considered a
newer Toyota right then if someone had just pretended that my family mattered.
first ride, as an infant, was a Toyota Corona which was so new to America
that I hear it had bad translations on some of the buttons in the car. I took
my driver's ed course using my Toyota Corolla LE, and that little blue car took my
Momster to graduate school, and my sister through her first years of
driving. I've owned an FJ-60 and a newer LandCruiser. Basically I've been
driving Toyotas for twenty-five years, and because I am just that
nostalgic, I am sad. But mostly I am so angry with Toyota Motor Corp for not
recognizing what their neglect has done to ruin their brand in my mind.
I really wanted someone to care, a little, about the person who has
held title on four of their cars over the course of more than half my
What kind of company takes a week to check
on your possessed car, then makes you pay for the car rental? What kind
of company says "nothing is wrong" with my car, then calls a
couple of weeks later and offers to buy our floormats so their
"engineers can work with them." (Even though I have explained clearly
that their was no floor mat entrapment.)
So now buying a car is more than just a "whoo hoo I have a great life and I get a new car!" It's
all wrapped up in me feeling safe again, and ensuring that my kid with
disabilities can be comfortable in the car, and figuring it all out quickly.
Changing brands after this many years is harder than I thought it would
be, but I think we have decided on....a Ford Flex. In fact, it may look a lot like the one below.
Ford has been awesome on Twitter
answering questions, offering to set up test drives searching for
cars. It's not an expense we planned
on, but if everything works out it will be a great thing for
So long Toyota.
**In an SUA situation, in newer cars, pressing your engine on/off button may work but you will probably lose power steering and brake assist, making the car difficult to handle. In older cars, turning the ignition off at the key has the potential to lock the steering, and is not generally recommended. I stomped my foot on the brake to the floor, put it in neutral and continued to slow the car. The car made a very terrible sound engine against breaks, and worse in neutral and park with the engine roaring at redline. Here is an Edmunds. com video that discusses what to do in the case of a stuck open throttle.
People who drive a stick would probably naturally put in the clutch and put the car in neutral. I am very thankful that I knew what to do, and I specifically want to thank my Dad, Jack T., and Jennifer and Greg for insisting that I learn how to drive a manual transmission car. I know I was a terrible student, but obviously you were very good teachers.